Up In The Air

14Jul09

Edit: Link taken down

Genre: Drama
Premise: A professional who specializes in “career transition counseling” is on the verge of accumulating 5 million frequent flier miles.
About: Based on the novel by Walter Kirn, this was adpated and is being directed by Jason Reitman (Juno) for a release later this year. It will star George Clooney, Jason Bateman, and Vera Farmiga. The script was a hot property last year when Leonardo DiCaprio got attached and it later landed on the Black List. Because Reitman is both the writer and director, there’s a good chance this draft stayed relatively intact.
Writer: Jason Reitman (originally adapted by Sheldon Turner)


I put this one off because I’m the anti-frequent flier. I fly once or twice a year and I hate every second of it. I’m kinda fascinated by these people who spend their entire lives on airplanes, in rented cars, in hotel rooms, because I always ask myself: What are they running from? Clearly, if they liked their lives, they’d be home more, right? That seems to be the inspiration behind the character of Ryan, played by George Clooney.

Clooney’s flyin high

Ryan is a man so appalled by the notion of “home”, he couldn’t tell you his address if you spotted him the first three numbers. Ryan’s priority is and always has been his work. Companies hire him to come in and do their housecleaning. And Ryan, who has the process down to a science, can fire 30 people in a day and not bat an eye. It’s not that he’s cruel. He genuinely cares about these people and their futures. But he loves the wonderful lifestyle this always-on-the-move job provides him. Ryan is perpetually 33,000 feet above you, me, and everyone else.

Recently, Ryan’s found himself approaching the 5,000,000 mile frequent flier mark. Only 7 people in history have ever achieved it at the airline and Ryan’s about to become the 8th. Reaching this point gets you ridiculous perks like your name on a plane and the kind of celebrity treatment reserved only for – well, for celebrities. Ryan purchases nothing or does nothing unless it increases this ever-escalating total of miles.

Unfortunately, Ryan’s high flying lifestyle is about to make a ditch landing in the Hudson River. A brash attractive 23 year old Ivy-League grad named Natalie is hired by the company to do some cost-cutting. And Natalie comes up with a doozie. Instead of *going* to these companies to fire people, what if they could do it over video chat? Ryan is outraged by even the mention of such a practice, but his boss likes Natalie’s out-of-the-box thinking and before Ryan knows it, he’s scheduled Natalie to follow Ryan around the country for a few weeks so she can learn firsthand how to fire people. Ryan’s perfect “on-the-move” lifestyle and 5,000,000 mile achievement is about to be crushed by some ignorant 23 year old Ivy League ditz.

In the coming weeks Ryan and Natalie try their best to work together but they’re the exact opposite in every way. She hates being away from home and is eagerly anticipating her marriage. He hates being *at* home and is eagerly anticipating the day she’s not around. And no, this isn’t a Hollywood romantic comedy so you can forget about the two hooking up. Instead, the story focuses on the unlikely friendship that forms between them. They find that they do actually have one thing in common – they’re both lost souls. And no matter how much sense their current philosophies on life seem to make for them, they’re both afraid that they’re missing out on something else.

One of the better subplots of the script is Alex, the female version of Ryan, who meets up with him all over the country for layover bootie-calls. The two know very little about each other other than that they love the thrill of being on the move. Whereas Ryan and Natalie rarely agree on anything, Ryan and Alex agree on pretty much everything. It’s the ultimate no-attachments relationship.

Vera will play the part of Alex

When a family wedding starts pulling Ryan back to that ugly cloud of attachent he’s worked so hard to avoid in life, and Natalie’s words start to give him a new perspective on settling down, Ryan finally sees what everybody has known about him forever: That the 20 years he’s spent running around the country were less about embracing life and more about avoiding it. He finally understands what he’s missing and to prove it, he jumps on a plane and flies to Alex’s hometown to surprise her. He wants that commitment. But when he gets there and she opens the door, let’s just say he experiences some turbulence. And that’s what I liked most about “Up In The Air.” There’s no flight plan. And you’re never quite sure what city you’ll going to land in.

I’ll be honest. I expected to hate thing thing. Who cares if someone gets 5,000,000 frequent flier miles?? Thankfully, that whole schtick is more of a story hook than something that actually plays into the plot. The script is more about drifting and our obsession with distraction. It’s about growing up, the power of denial, is the grass really greener on the other side? It’s about selfishness and family and never knowing if you’re making the right choice.

Up In the Air really won me over in the end. It’s not perfect. It drifts a little. But in a weird way, the drifting mirrors Ryan’s life, so it kind of works. It reminded me of a more serious Jerry McGuire – and I think Cruise would’ve been a better fit than both DiCaprio or Clooney. But if Clooney can pull this off, he may be up for some awards come Oscar time (it shouldn’t be hard. How many nominations do they have now? 30?) This is the film that “The Terminal” wanted to be and one of my most anticipated flicks of the winter.

Link: Up In The Air (link taken down)

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest

[ ] worth the read

[x] impressive

[ ] genius

What I learned: Is 110 the new 120? – Up In The Air may clock in at 124 pages but that’s because Jason Reitman only has to impress himself. I have been seeing so many 100-110 page spec scripts lately. It’s so rare that one of the chunkier ones sneaks through that you begin to wonder if 120 is becoming the screenplay equivalent of standard definition. Of course, thrillers and comedies are naturally shorter. If you’re writing a drama, you can eek into 110+ territory. But I’d still look to keep it under 110. Readers are just used to it. And after being yelled at and ridiculed for 9 hours, these poor souls have to go home and read 3 professional scripts before they reach yours – the unknown writer – the one script they’ve been dreading and the one they know if they don’t like by page 20, they’re getting some shuteye. So don’t give them a reason to tune out before they’ve tuned in.


Uprising

13Jul09

Today’s review brings back the dark angel of death himself, Tarson Meads. If you’re always complaining that Scriptshadow only reviews the fluffier fare, well then do I have a blog for you. Tarson not only likes the darkness. He thrives in it. Though I’ve never actually been inside, I’ve been told he redecorated his basement to look like the basement from Silence Of The Lambs. Anyway, if you enjoy Tarson’s dark sensibility, then head over to his blog afterwards and explore your inner evil. Here’s his review of Uprising by David Twohy, which sounds like something I’ll have to check out. I loved Pitch Black. The script is almost a perfect example of how to craft a sci-fi action screenplay. But man, that sequel was abysmal. And don’t get me started on “Below,” that weird submarine flick he directed. Talk about all over the place. Still, when David Twohy does sci-fi, I pay attention.

Genre: Sci-Fi/Action/Thriller
Premise: The story revolves around the resistance efforts of some citizens after Earth has been occupied by a powerful alien race.
About: Variety has confirmed that Wolfgang Petersen will be directing Uprising for Columbia Pictures, with Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher producing through their Sony-based Red Wagon shingle. Like most scripts, this seems to have been rewritten quite a bit. Before Twohy was involved, William Broyles Jr. wrote a strong draft as well.
Writer: David Twohy

“Come on, men, who’s with me?”

David Twohy is a man I admire. He’s fantastic writer, and he certainly knows his way around a camera too. He’s responsible for the cult Sci-Fi/Actioner, Pitch Black, which spawned a movie sequel and two critically acclaimed video games, based on the adventures of Riddick, and funnily enough, was one of the writers hired for Waterworld. He’s had a diverse career, peppered with flops and successes, and he’s written everything from GI-Jane to Critters 2: The Main Course. So when Uprising arrived in my inbox with a chime, I was excited. After all, this was being pitched as “The Great Escape” with aliens. I mean, come on, that just spells cool with a capital “C.”

I’ll gladly confess I’m partial to the odd alien invasion story. I think there’s something that’s both fascinating and intriguing about them, almost on a primal level. It’s a universal theme. Everyone on earth can relate to it. It asks one of the biggest questions: are we alone? The idea of being invaded by forces far more advanced than us, has thrilled generations for over a century, and when you boil it all down, it’s just great entertainment. War of The Worlds might still resonate with today’s Facebook generation, but I’m waiting for the day when I read a solid script that tackles the UFO subject, without being campy, spoofish or prudish.

Anyway, on with the show.

Some of you may have noticed lately, there’s been an increasing trend, both in novels, comics and yes, even screenplays, which explore life on earth, post alien invasion. Anthony Peckham’s spec “No Man’s Land” was an honorable effort, even garnering some votes on 2007’s Black List, but since that script, there’s really been nothing of interest, or of significance in the alien invasion genre. At least not to my knowledge, screenplay wise.

That is until, Uprising.

I’m happy to report, the script is extremely good. Twohy just wipes the floor with this. He’s managed to not only write a compelling story, but do it with such imagination; it honestly makes me wonder why I bother trying to be a screenwriter, when this guy is just so good. Uprising clocks in at 136 pages. Now for the jaded reader out there, that’s bad news. But I can’t tell you how long it’s been where a script has grabbed me from start till finish. Some scripts take me days, even weeks to trawl through, but this was sheer entertainment.

The story takes place in and around a human POW camp, where a brutal alien race, called the Druuben, have conquered earth. There’s no military, no Government, just the Druuben. They now run earth, and it’s not a pretty sight. Those who are lucky enough to avoid the camps, dwell in complete squalor. There’s human life, but it’s the pits, man. Basic services are next to non-existent, and humanity is being forced to live the Druuben way. They are here to rebuild earth in their image. Kids are even being forced to learn the Druuben tongue.

It’s clear Twohy invested a lot of thought into designing the Druuben, and one of the things I loved about them, is that they’re not simply merciless overlords. They’ll indirectly bargain with humans, as long as it benefits their cause. Throughout the story, we catch glimpses of their social structure, their culture and their language, and it makes us hate them even more. It’s also clear; they’ve done this invading business many times before.

The Druuben themselves are only partially revealed to us in quick glimpses. Twohy teases us, and rightly so, because like our enslaved human brothers and sisters, we dare not look at them. Once revealed in full, the Druuben are shockingly grotesque and completely alien. For starters, they don’t have eyes. They see radio. That’s right, radio frequencies, which also explains how they were able to coordinate a global attack with such efficiency. It’s like organic range-finding. Moonless night? No problem. Snowstorm, heavy rain? Cut right through it. They might even have the ability to see with the back of their heads. They’re scanning and frequency hopping, tuning their built-in radio dial, finding the wavelength that will best resolve their target. No, just because they don’t have eyes, doesn’t mean they can’t see.

It’s the little things like this that make Uprising so much fun, and render the Druuben as truly terrifying oppressors.

Okay, so enough about aliens. What about our characters? What about the plot? This is after all, a screenplay, right?

So after the opening attack, we meet our hero Lieutenant J. Stevens, a US Naval officer. Twohy likes to write tough guys with attitude. Stevens oozes “action hero guy.” He’s not afraid to go head to head with the Druuben and risk his life. Not afraid to cut a deal with the Druuben, so us humans can have the right to bury our dead. And just like the title suggests, Stevens is responsible for initiating an underground movement inside the camp – an uprising. Under the cover of darkness, he develops a plan to not only escape, but play the one final card humanity has against the Druuben. What is it? You’ll have to read it to find out – but it’s something the Druuben suspect is out there. Something they may have missed. Something that could turn the tide. Something the Druuben fear.

Despite having recruited a small army, it’s not all roses for Stevens. There’s fighting, squabbling and politics inside the camp. Ex-military men, who have been entrusted by the Druuben to maintain order and run the camps, are out to keep their status. These men are also tasked with interfacing between humans and their new masters. Basically, there are a lot of people out to double-cross for their own benefits, and do anything to gain favour amongst the Druuben…

Okay, I’m going to stop right there.

Reason being: I want this to be as spoiler free as possible. This is a script you should read without knowing too much.

After finishing Uprising I was exhausted, not from the reading itself, but because it made me realize just how much further I have to go, on a personal level as a screenwriter. Sure, Uprising is far from perfect, but when it comes to sheer entertainment on a commercial level, this script tops the cake. It ticks all the boxes – intriguing, gripping, horrific and funny – just an enjoyable read. I must admit I’m not entirely stoked over the chosen director, but Wolfgang does have an uncanny ability to do things on an epic scale – and although the bulk of Uprising takes place in and around the same location, it’s also an alien invasion movie. They need to be epic. They need to be big, global, bold and in your face. I just hope to God they make this film, and I hope to God they don’t change too much from the draft I read. So if the weekly barrage of alien specs is making you yawn, do yourself a favour, read Uprising. I highly recommend it.

Script Link:Uprising

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive (almost genius)
[ ] genius

What I Learned: David Twohy rocks!


Fiasco Heights

09Jul09

Genre: Thriller/Film Noir
Premise: A gunman returns to the crime-ridden city of Fiasco Heights and teams with a degenerate gambler/private eye on the run from a syndicate to look for a beautiful femme fatale.
About: Kyle Ward, all of 27 years old, sold Fiasco Heights to Universal back in 2007. He was an assistant at Dreamworks at the time. The script made the 2008 Black List, landed him at CAA, and got Ward all sorts of high-profile jobs like “Kane and Lynch” and “Hitman 2”. If it does get made, Michael Bay is producing.
Writer: Kyle Ward


What do you get when you mix Sin City, Dick Tracy, and Grand Theft Auto? Fiasco Heights. When Guy Ritchie, Frank Miller, Quentin Tarantino, and Robert Rodriquez dream of the perfect script, what do they dream of? Fiasco Heights. If you spend the majority of your time debating what your next tattoo will be, dripping sweat from your nearly naked body at the local rave, or dropping acid, what should your next screenplay read be? Fiasco Heights. I never get jealous of other writers, no matter how great they are. I am very jealous of Kyle Ward though. He’s clearly insane, yet possesses the innate ability to capture that insanity and transfer it down onto paper. There is not a single thing about Fiasco Heights that I should like. My 300 and Sin City experiences were the equivalent of being thrown into a dryer for six hours without fabric softener. The only reason I even gave this script a chance was because I had rented Grand Theft Auto a week earlier and had played it so much I’d started confusing the real world with the Grand Theft Auto world. My brain felt like spaghetti and pepto bismol as I stumbled around my neighborhood wondering if I should carjack the Accura or the Audi. Ward’s modern film-noir seemed like a natural extension of this mindset so I gave the Xbox a much-needed rest and dialed up Acrobat. I’m not sure I’d ever go back and relive that week, but Fiasco Heights stands as the defacto bookend to the closest I’ve ever come to committing a felony.

For those of you wondering, Fiasco Heights is a city. Sticking with film-noir tradition, it’s seedy, dirty, rainy, and unpleasant. Atlantic City meets Gotham. Here we join Nick The Saint, a professional killer who hasn’t been to this shithole in years. In fact, everybody thought Nicky was dead. A ghost. But he so wasn’t dead. Now he’s back to find a girl named Hope who’s gotten herself into a bad situation. Across town we meet Lucky – no relation – a former P.I. with a serious gambling addiction. The local bookie (his priest) lets him ride his debt on that evening’s fight and suffice it to say, Lucky’s account gets K.O.’d. Lucky splits and the priest sends out his own personal hitman brigade to take him down. Lucky’s no Carl Lewis so they catch him pretty easily and take him to their own version of confession: If he doesn’t come up with the money, he’s dead.

Lucky for Lucky he spots some men manhandling Hope, the girl Nick’s looking for, and as a result becomes Nick’s only link to finding her. The sleazy Lucky (I don’t know why, but I picture the guy as the real-life equivalent of Leisure Suit Larry) parlays this information into securing the world’s best bodyguard. He’ll help Nick find Hope if Nick helps protect him from the priest. Nick’s not taking to this low-life but it’s not like he’s got a lot of options. Hence, a pairing is born. The thing that Lucky doesn’t realize, is that just about everyone in this town wants Nick dead. Which means this coupling’s annihilation has become the number one priority for every dirty rotten crook in town. Needless to say, trouble ensues.

From then on, every minute of Fiasco Heights is filled with somebody dying, somebody killing, or a bunch of people dying and killing during an incredibly elaborate car chase. In fact, the central chase scene is one of my favorite moments in the script. Here’s the end of it, just to give you a taste of how insane Ward is…

[scrippet]
EXT. TRANSPORTABLE HOME – GARAGE – CONTINUOUS

A vertical garage door lifts, revealing a PINK CADILLAC parked inside (the kind your mom drives after selling Mary Kay for ten years). Lucky wires the engine and REVERSES THE CADILLAC OUT OF THE TIPPING HOME BACK ONTO THE FREEWAY.

The house topples to the asphalt, and rolls in direct path of the SEWAGE TANKER. Tanker collides and sputters into a 90 degree skid. As it cuts perpendicular to the other lanes, THE
CONSTRUCTION CARRIER has no choice but to carom into the tanker at full speed…

AN ERUPTION OF PISS & SHIT GOES SKY HIGH!!

WATCH OUT! THE CONSTRUCTION CARRIER hydroplanes across the piss slicked asphalt -and- slams into the median, sending all 6 concrete cylinders toppling onto the highway.

LUCKY
Ah hell!

Lucky weaves as the cylinders roll across the lanes. He’s dodging perfectly, until of course the final cylinder rolls directly in front of us!

PINK CADILLAC CHUTES STRAIGHT INTO THE CYLINDER GOING 90… TURNS UPSIDE DOWN AS IT ROLLS LEFT AND GETS SPIT OUT ON ALL FOURS ONE LANE OVER.

DELI
HOOOOOOLY SHIT!

NICK
HOLY SHIIIIIIT!

Nick signs the cross. Lucky tries too, but fucks the rotation.

And the Cadillac speeds into the clear….
[/scrippet]
If I need something described from this point on, I’m going to Ward to describe it. I could picture every bullet flying, every body crashing, every color glowing. So much so that I see no point in making the movie. Just read the script a second time. It’ll probably be a more enjoyable experience. If they were going to make this movie though, they should split it up into four pieces and give it to four different directors. Tarantino, Spike Jonez, Tarsem, and Guy Ritchie. Don’t let any of them know what the others are doing. It would be genius! If you’re going to take a shot at this weird creature, why not go all the way?

Is it all buttercups and belgium waffles? No. Buried inside this circus is a pretty ordinary plot. I guess it has to be that way to keep this story from floating off into the stratosphere. But I’m very much a “story” guy and not having something to sink my teeth into kept me from enjoying this as much as I’d hoped. Watching Ward weave words together is fun. And I was never quite sure what was coming around the corner. But I wanted a little more meat on this bone and not even the most lavish description of a bullet entering a man’s body can make up for that. For that reason, Fiasco just misses an impressive. It does, however, get my new favorite rating: the double-star “worth the read”. 🙂

Link: Fiasco Heights

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest

[xx] worth the read

[ ] impressive

[ ] genius

What I learned: I think this script is a good reminder to really evaluate your action description. Make it fun and entertaining to read. A lot of writers are content with just getting it down. Tell us what’s happening in an interesting way. Readers get bored with mundane description.


Fiasco Heights

09Jul09

Genre: Thriller/Film Noir
Premise: A gunman returns to the crime-ridden city of Fiasco Heights and teams with a degenerate gambler/private eye on the run from a syndicate to look for a beautiful femme fatale.
About: Kyle Ward, all of 27 years old, sold Fiasco Heights to Universal back in 2007. He was an assistant at Dreamworks at the time. The script made the 2008 Black List, landed him at CAA, and got Ward all sorts of high-profile jobs like “Kane and Lynch” and “Hitman 2”. If it does get made, Michael Bay is producing.
Writer: Kyle Ward


What do you get when you mix Sin City, Dick Tracy, and Grand Theft Auto? Fiasco Heights. When Guy Ritchie, Frank Miller, Quentin Tarantino, and Robert Rodriquez dream of the perfect script, what do they dream of? Fiasco Heights. If you spend the majority of your time debating what your next tattoo will be, dripping sweat from your nearly naked body at the local rave, or dropping acid, what should your next screenplay read be? Fiasco Heights. I never get jealous of other writers, no matter how great they are. I am very jealous of Kyle Ward though. He’s clearly insane, yet possesses the innate ability to capture that insanity and transfer it down onto paper. There is not a single thing about Fiasco Heights that I should like. My 300 and Sin City experiences were the equivalent of being thrown into a dryer for six hours without fabric softener. The only reason I even gave this script a chance was because I had rented Grand Theft Auto a week earlier and had played it so much I’d started confusing the real world with the Grand Theft Auto world. My brain felt like spaghetti and pepto bismol as I stumbled around my neighborhood wondering if I should carjack the Accura or the Audi. Ward’s modern film-noir seemed like a natural extension of this mindset so I gave the Xbox a much-needed rest and dialed up Acrobat. I’m not sure I’d ever go back and relive that week, but Fiasco Heights stands as the defacto bookend to the closest I’ve ever come to committing a felony.

For those of you wondering, Fiasco Heights is a city. Sticking with film-noir tradition, it’s seedy, dirty, rainy, and unpleasant. Atlantic City meets Gotham. Here we join Nick The Saint, a professional killer who hasn’t been to this shithole in years. In fact, everybody thought Nicky was dead. A ghost. But he so wasn’t dead. Now he’s back to find a girl named Hope who’s gotten herself into a bad situation. Across town we meet Lucky – no relation – a former P.I. with a serious gambling addiction. The local bookie (his priest) lets him ride his debt on that evening’s fight and suffice it to say, Lucky’s account gets K.O.’d. Lucky splits and the priest sends out his own personal hitman brigade to take him down. Lucky’s no Carl Lewis so they catch him pretty easily and take him to their own version of confession: If he doesn’t come up with the money, he’s dead.

Lucky for Lucky he spots some men manhandling Hope, the girl Nick’s looking for, and as a result becomes Nick’s only link to finding her. The sleazy Lucky (I don’t know why, but I picture the guy as the real-life equivalent of Leisure Suit Larry) parlays this information into securing the world’s best bodyguard. He’ll help Nick find Hope if Nick helps protect him from the priest. Nick’s not taking to this low-life but it’s not like he’s got a lot of options. Hence, a pairing is born. The thing that Lucky doesn’t realize, is that just about everyone in this town wants Nick dead. Which means this coupling’s annihilation has become the number one priority for every dirty rotten crook in town. Needless to say, trouble ensues.

From then on, every minute of Fiasco Heights is filled with somebody dying, somebody killing, or a bunch of people dying and killing during an incredibly elaborate car chase. In fact, the central chase scene is one of my favorite moments in the script. Here’s the end of it, just to give you a taste of how insane Ward is…

[scrippet]
EXT. TRANSPORTABLE HOME – GARAGE – CONTINUOUS

A vertical garage door lifts, revealing a PINK CADILLAC parked inside (the kind your mom drives after selling Mary Kay for ten years). Lucky wires the engine and REVERSES THE CADILLAC OUT OF THE TIPPING HOME BACK ONTO THE FREEWAY.

The house topples to the asphalt, and rolls in direct path of the SEWAGE TANKER. Tanker collides and sputters into a 90 degree skid. As it cuts perpendicular to the other lanes, THE
CONSTRUCTION CARRIER has no choice but to carom into the tanker at full speed…

AN ERUPTION OF PISS & SHIT GOES SKY HIGH!!

WATCH OUT! THE CONSTRUCTION CARRIER hydroplanes across the piss slicked asphalt -and- slams into the median, sending all 6 concrete cylinders toppling onto the highway.

LUCKY
Ah hell!

Lucky weaves as the cylinders roll across the lanes. He’s dodging perfectly, until of course the final cylinder rolls directly in front of us!

PINK CADILLAC CHUTES STRAIGHT INTO THE CYLINDER GOING 90… TURNS UPSIDE DOWN AS IT ROLLS LEFT AND GETS SPIT OUT ON ALL FOURS ONE LANE OVER.

DELI
HOOOOOOLY SHIT!

NICK
HOLY SHIIIIIIT!

Nick signs the cross. Lucky tries too, but fucks the rotation.

And the Cadillac speeds into the clear….
[/scrippet]
If I need something described from this point on, I’m going to Ward to describe it. I could picture every bullet flying, every body crashing, every color glowing. So much so that I see no point in making the movie. Just read the script a second time. It’ll probably be a more enjoyable experience. If they were going to make this movie though, they should split it up into four pieces and give it to four different directors. Tarantino, Spike Jonez, Tarsem, and Guy Ritchie. Don’t let any of them know what the others are doing. It would be genius! If you’re going to take a shot at this weird creature, why not go all the way?

Is it all buttercups and belgium waffles? No. Buried inside this circus is a pretty ordinary plot. I guess it has to be that way to keep this story from floating off into the stratosphere. But I’m very much a “story” guy and not having something to sink my teeth into kept me from enjoying this as much as I’d hoped. Watching Ward weave words together is fun. And I was never quite sure what was coming around the corner. But I wanted a little more meat on this bone and not even the most lavish description of a bullet entering a man’s body can make up for that. For that reason, Fiasco just misses an impressive. It does, however, get my new favorite rating: the double-star “worth the read”. 🙂

Link: Fiasco Heights

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest

[xx] worth the read

[ ] impressive

[ ] genius

What I learned: I think this script is a good reminder to really evaluate your action description. Make it fun and entertaining to read. A lot of writers are content with just getting it down. Tell us what’s happening in an interesting way. Readers get bored with mundane description.


Genre: Comedy
Premise: Seagal and Van Damme play Los Angeles neighbors in the midst of a long-standing feud.
About: This is an older project I’ve been meaning to read forever. Friends told me it was good and the hook was too hilarious to pass up. The problem seems to be that Seagal and Van Damme won’t do it. Which is a shame because realistically, this is their only chance of getting out of straight-to-dvd land. (If anyone has an update on this project, please e-mail me or leave a comment!)
Writer: da drooz

Remember the good old days when Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal flicks were *the* movies to see? I’ll never forget the day that changed. When a movie titled “Fire Down Below” came out, an “eco-action-thriller.” About 20 minutes into watching this garbage dump of a film, my friend and I turned to each other and said, “What the f*ck is this shit?” You could replay that movie for me right now with Steven Seagal in my living room explaining every plot point in detail and I still wouldn’t know what was going on. It was around that same time I heard a story about Van Damme being a diva on the set of Predator (his first American film) and my love for these two childhood icons died. My only interaction with them since has been seeing their slightly-disheveled mugs pasted on their latest straight-to-DVD release when I peruse through the video store. What Van Damme and Seagal don’t realize is that this movie would completely change all that.

Dave is a struggling writer working on an obscure autobiography of a Bulgarian feminist when he’s informed of a job by his agent that’s a little…out of his comfort zone. Jean Claude Van Damme wants him to write his autobiography. “Jean Claude Van Who?” When Dave finds out it’s some aging action movie star he adamantly refuses. Dave is a “serious” writer who does serious feminist biographies only. But the 175,000 dollar check changes his mind and off to Los Angeles he goes. What Dave doesn’t know is that the only reason Van Damme wants to write an autobiography is because he’s found out that his neighbor, the man he hates more than anything in the world, Steven Seagal, is writing his autobiography, and just like everything else in life, Jean Claude wants to beat him to it.

Naturally, the job of Van Damme’s biographer turns into more than just being his biographer. It requires training with Van Damme, shopping with Van Damme, picking up after Van Damme, and even waxing Van Damme. Not nearly as in demand as he once was, Van Damme spends most of his days spying on Seagal and satisfying a sexual appetite that makes David Duchovny look like Ernest Borgnine. Not to be outdone, Seagal has his own set of spy equipment that he uses to watch Van Damme. He also enjoys sneaking into Van Damme’s house at night and putting up posters of Under Siege or lobbing water balloons into his yard filled with his own urine.


During one of Seagal’s spying sessions, he spots Dave and assumes that Van Damme is building an army to defeat him. The unwritten rules of their feud dictate that this is forbidden so Seagal heads off to see the United Nations of the Van Damme-Seagal conflict, Chuck Norris. Chuck Norris convinces Seagal to calm down, pointing out that an army requires more than one person. But Seagal is not convinced. He goes to his old friend Dolph Lundgren for help, but Dolph is doing something that’s become a bit alien to Seagal and Van Damme – a movie. Not only that, but Dolph is going to direct his first film afterwards. Excited, Seagal inquires about a possible part. But Dolph looks away. He’s sorry but he doesn’t have anything available.

Beat up and depressed, Seagal decides to further investigate Van Damme’s secret one-man weapon and discovers that he’s not a weapon at all, but rather Van Damme’s biographer. Seagal seeks out Dave’s biography about the Bulgarian feminist and reads it. It is so touching – he is so moved – he kidnaps Dave and insists that he write *his* biography. This is after we find out that Seagal wasn’t even writing a biography in the first place. Van Damme had some bad intel. But now that he knows Van Damme is writing a biography, he wants to write one first.

In the end, the former movie stars must team up to save Los Angeles from a group of terrorists who were living right in the house between them this whole time (they were too consumed with each other to notice). And of course, at the very very end, they finally fight each other.

Van Damme vs. Seagal was a nice surprise. I expected a big goofy rompified mess. And it was a big goofy rompified mess. But it was a lovable big goofy rompafied mess with a lot of charm and a surprising amount of story. The scene that everyone talks about is the water-balloon fight (talk about the perfect trailer moment) but this script has tons of funny moments. One of my favorite ongoing gags is that Seagal has slept with 5000 women while Van Damme’s only slept with 4998. In this scene, Dave is taking a pottie (sitting down) when Seagal sneaks in through the window, trying to convince him to write his biography, promising to help him bed women in return. Van Damme walks in and catches them in the act.
[scrippet]
But before Dave can say anything, the door opens and VD enters the tiny bathroom.

VD
What the hell is going on in here?

DAVE
Can you people not see I’m on the toilet?!

VD
Yes. I see you. Sneaking in here, pretending to be on the toilet, pretending to make number 2 so you can talk to your new best friend Steven Seagal.

DAVE
I’m not pretending. And I didn’t sneak in here. He snuck in to try to get me to help him write his book by helping me win over Theresa.

VD
I can’t believe I called you a great employee.

DAVE
I said no.

VD is thrilled.

VD
Of course you did. He could never help you win over a woman.

Seagal rolls his eyes.

SEAGAL
I could do a lot better job than you, Flemmie. In fact, I could do two better than you.

He sure knows how to press VD’s buttons.

VD
The only reason you have two more conquests than me is because no women were able find me for two days after you changed the name of my street sign.

Seagal laughs fondly at that memory.
[/scrippet]
I’ll let you read the funniest moment of the script yourself, which happens after Van Damme and Seagal team up. When one of the terrorists spots their position, they must improvise something to stay alive. Let’s just say if it ever happens, it would be one of the the greatest moments in movie history. I don’t know if it’s even legal to give a script named “Van Damme vs. Seagal” an impressive rating, but I’ll tell you, I came Van Damme close (come on, you know I had to go there).

Link: Van Damme Vs. Seagal

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest

[xx] worth the read

[ ] impressive

[ ] genius


What I learned: Gimmick scripts. Scripts with a gimmicky angle usually never get made (or sold for that matter). We’ve seen this with The Gary Coleman – Emmanuel Lewis Project and the more recent “Balls Out” by The Robotard 8000. I remember hearing about a script a long time ago where a frustrated writer wrote one giant ‘fuck you’ to the industry before giving up. Surprisingly, the script was a town favorite and actually got sold (by the way, if anyone knows the title of this script or has it, please send it to me). While selling a gimmick script is the exception and not the rule, their ridiculous nature tends to create a buzz, getting writers into meetings where other work opportunities can be found. Gimmick scripts are a legitimate avenue into the business. Just remember, they still have to be good (I still think VD vs. Seagal could pull in a 25 million opening weekend though. People would flock to this).


Kidnap

07Jul09

Genre: Thriller
Premise: A woman’s 4 year old son is kidnapped. With no way to contact the authorities, she’s forced to chase the kidnappers herself.
About: I don’t know if this makes me cool or uncool but I’ve never watched ‘Jackass,’ the show Knate Gwaltney was on. Gwaltney sold his spec to Fox Searchlight last month. John Moore will direct and exec produce. Di Bonaventura and Erik Howsam will produce via Di Bonaventura Pictures.
Writer: Knate Gwaltney


Someone had mentioned a couple of weeks ago that they were tired of this new Taken takeover trend. And it is starting to feel old. Though you can’t fault Knate Gwaltney for capitalizing on the studios’ desperate bid to create more of these save-or-avenge-my-family-member clones. That’s part of being a writer in this stingy spec market. When the opportunity presents itself, take advantage. My issue with Kidnap is that that’s all it does. It doesn’t push or surprise us in any way (like the highly buzzed about “Prisoners“, for example). It’s solid writing for sure, but I wanted more out of the story.

Kate is the kind of mom who’s popular with the dads at the soccer game. She has an adorable little 4 year old boy named Frank. Frank does a number of adorable little boy things while Kate drives to the local shopping mall. Kate wants to get something sexy for her husband so they head inside the JC Penny where Frank starts playing a little game of hide-and-seek. Yeah, we know this isn’t going to end well. For some reason Kate lets Frank run around outside while she’s in the changing room, and when she emerges to pay for the dress, the game of hide and seek becomes a lot more complicated. Frank is nowhere to be found. Kate starts freaking out, frantically accusing every male in sight. With time ticking off the clock, the saleslady makes a missing boy announcement. But Kate, determined not to let her boy end up on the back of a milk carton (do they still do that?) takes matters into her own hands and goes to find her son!

She barrels out of the mall into the parking lot and there, way way down at the end, she spots two people stuffing her son into a brown hatchback. Fuck! She sprints towards them, screaming for someone to help. But no one’s around and the tactic actually works against her, as they hurry into the car and shoot off. Kate obviously didn’t watch Taken. You’re supposed to call the kidnappers and offer a very calm but threatening ultimatum. Oh wait, Kate realizes her phone is with Frank! Dammit. So she jumps in her mini-van and begins a torrid Los Angeles style car chase through the city.

This is where Kidnap spends the bulk of its time as the movie is essentially one giant car chase. Gwaltney does a good job highlighting the collective apathy our society has for anyone in trouble these days. Even though Kate’s able to get right up next to the hatchback numerous times, scream and yell and honk and tell other passengers to call the police, no one seems that interested in helping her.

There are some solid set-pieces. When the kidnappers near a toll stop – Kate hot in pursuit – they stop their car a few hundred feet short in order to avoid being boxed in. A tepid and awkward showdown begins right there in the middle of the highway, with cars whizzing by obliviously. There’s also a gnarly kill scene when a bike cop gets caught between their two cars and the kidnappers ram him right into the side of Kate’s mini-van, mangling his body into a bloody pulp. Somewhere, Eric Estrada wept.

Watching Kate desperately try to keep the hatchback in site – knowing that if she loses it, she loses her son – keeps the intensity up. But the script starts to get repetitive after awhile. Gwaltney does his best to mix it up, but there are only so many things you can do in a 90 minute car chase. Taken, Prisoners, Rites Of Men, Snatched – they’ve all ‘taken’ me down this avenue before. I didn’t want to see anybody chase each other anymore. I wanted to see people hold hands, kiss, and tell each other that they were swell. Had I read this five months ago? It very well may have been a completely different story. But coming in at the tail end of a trend, it has a ‘been-there-done-that’ feel. Final verdict? Interest barely kept.

Link: Kidnap (Script taken down)

[ ] trash
[x] barely kept my interest

[ ] worth the read

[ ] impressive

[ ] genius


What I learned: I want to further address what Tarson brought up the other day – trends. But more specifically trying to capitalize on the tail end a trend. If you don’t have an agent or you’re an unsold writer, it isn’t a good idea to try and capitalize on a trend. All the writers with agents and credits? Those are the guys that get the first shot at capitalising on trends. They’re the ones with an idea or an old script in the current “hot genre” and they’re the ones who get meetings with buyers to pitch these projects right off the heels of a film’s success. By the time you query everyone with your idea, send it out to the interested parties, have them actually read it, and they actually go out to buyers with your script and those buyers read it – it will likely be 5-6 months down the line. By that time, the trend will be over. Like Tarson says, stick with what you love, make sure it’s marketable, keep writing scripts, and when you make your inroads into the business, you’ll have a much easier time capitalizing on the current trend.


No script link today. Sorry. 😦

Genre: Drama
Premise: A look at the rise of Facebook and the effect it’s had on its founders.
About: Aaron Sorkin was commissioned by Sony and producer Scott Rudin to write a movie about Facebook. Interestingly, Sorkin had little to no knowledge of Facebook when he got the job. He’s self-proclaimed computer ignorant, which makes some of the scenes in the script all the more remarkable. It’s been highly publicized that David Fincher is interested in taking over the reigns for the project. David, if you’re listening to me now, you can make this film. But please make Passengers first.
Writer: Aaron Sorkin (1st Draft)

First of all, Sony’s a little late to the party. There’s already a Facebook movie in production. And I have the exclusive first look!

I think it goes without saying that as soon as Facebook supplanted Myspace as the de facto online time-wasting mechanism, the studios were looking for ways to profit off of it. So they paid Aaron Sorkin 6.2 bajillion dollars to write “the Facebook movie”. An epic story that would capture the drama of late-night status updates, the power of the poke, who and who not to limit profile access to, and of course, the all important and always necessary “delete friend” feature. Okay, well, maybe it wouldn’t be about those things per se. But it would be about computers and software and code and snobby rich kids. Still not exactly the seeds of compelling drama. Which is exactly why Sony decided on Sorkin to tend the garden.

I have it on good authority that this is Aaron Sorkin’s official Facebook picture.

So back in the day I used to work for this producer. He was new to Hollywood – Three years prior he’d created some hot piece of software that sold for a fortune. This left him with a ton money at a very young age and when you’re young and rich, what do you do? You make movies! He was actually a fun guy to work with. Even though he didn’t know a lot, he was smart enough to pick things up quickly. Raised on the first two seasons of Entourage, he liked living the Hollywood life just as much as he liked working in it. So a year into our relationship, he invited me to one of his lavish house parties. It was everything you’d imagine a party in the Hills to be. A lot of great-looking people, pool shenanigans, multiple bars, an overly energetic DJ (this is not me bragging btw; Culver City is much more my scene). As I was taking in the chaos, however, I noticed this quiet little fashion-challenged 30-something in the corner. He had this detached quality to him, like he was at the party but he wasn’t. Whatever his story was, I knew it had to be a lot more interesting than the last ten people I talked to (French Guy: “I’m directing this commercial in Germany.” Me: “Oh yeah? What for?” French Guy: “I cannot talk about it.”) So I made my way over and casually introduced myself. After some small talk I asked him, “So who do you know here?” “Oh,” he said, “The owner of the house.” “Yeah?” I asked. “How?” “I’m his brother.”

This answer was quite puzzling. I had known this producer for over a year and we’d had thousands of conversations but he had never mentioned a brother. I continued to pry and the brother told me the story I’m telling you now: He and the producer co-founded the software company together. The first year was the best year of their lives. They didn’t make a cent but they were doing what they loved and they were doing it together. Then the company started experiencing success. That success led to more success and within a matter of months they were making millions of dollars. The company’s next steps were critical in determining how big they’d become. Millions of dollars were at stake. The brothers could not agree on a direction though. The producer wanted to grow as fast as possible (more money). The brother wanted to retain the quality of the company and slow down (less money). Things got so bad that in the end, the producer, who had a slight majority in the company, fired his brother. The brother told me he hadn’t spoken to him in over 2 years and that these parties were the only times he got to see him (he was never invited. He just showed up). Although he now had more money than he had ever dreamed of, he said if he could do it all over again, he never would’ve started that company. Two things came out of that night. One, I’ll never forget the sadness in that man’s eyes. And two, I never looked at money the same way again.

Naturally, all of this came roaring back to me after reading “The Social Experiment.” Instead of a story about brothers though, this is a story about two friends – one a computer genius, the other a business expert – who began a website that became the fastest growing phenomenon in internet history. Three years later, one was suing the other for 600 million dollars (or 1/30th of Mark Zuckerberg’s worth). It’s a story about greed, about obsession, about our belief that all the money in the world can make us happy. But it’s also unpredictable, funny, touching, and sad. It gives us that rare glimpse into the improbable world of mega-success.

We start out in a campus bar with a young couple. The guy is Mark Zuckerberg, a slightly cooler Bill Gates. The girl is Erica, his girlfriend. The two are having a conversation. Actually, they’re having five conversations because Mark can’t focus on one thing. He’ll occasionally backtrack into a previous conversation within the flow of the current conversation, all while preparing for the next conversation. He’s clearly smart as hell, but the habit makes him incredibly annoying. Add a side of selfishness and an order of condescension and we can see why Erica becomes more frustrated the longer the conversation continues. Mark is so into his own problems, in fact, that he’s completely blindsinded when Erica breaks up with him.

Zuckerberg sporting the sandals.

Convincing himself that he could care less, Mark heads back to his Harvard dorm to do what any computer nerd does when he gets dumped by a girl he never should’ve landed in the first place. He starts blogging about it! “Blah blah blah, Erica’s the biggest bitch whore in the world…” But the dumping ignites Mark’s imagination and he comes up with an idea for a website – a sort of “Hot or Not” which allows Harvard guys to compare Harvard women against each other. His best friend Eduardo pops in to help him and they have the site live in less than an hour. Within half an hour after that, the site is so popular, it takes down the entire Harvard computer network. Though he manages to piss off a number of faculty (and Harvard women), Mark earns some ivy league street cred and makes a name for himself (not easy to do on the hallowed Harvard grounds).

The stunt also brings Mark to the attention of Cameron and Tyler: two extremely rich and handsome brothers who are star members of the Harvard row team. Impressed by his creativity and speed, they want him to code their new website – an exclusive Harvard “Myspace-like” network. Mark digs the idea and agrees to help. Over the next month, however, he starts dreaming up his own variation of the site: a social networking experience built on exclusivity. His site would work like real life. Someone could only know your personal details if they were friends with you (unlike Myspace which at the time let anybody know anything about anyone). An exclusive network of friends. He called it “TheFacebook.”


He and his best friend Eduardo come up with the plan – Mark is geek patrol and glues his fingers to the keyboard, Eduardo is business-central and plots the site’s future. The coding wizard needs less than a month to build the site. It goes live a few days later and takes off like a Malibu brush fire. Within weeks everyone at Harvard’s using it. Cameron and Tyler, still in the dark about Mark’s secondary endeavor, are eagerly awaiting their website code. Imagine their surprise when “theFacebook” shows up on every desktop in school. They demand Mark shut down the site but Mark’s already onto the next conversation. He expands into other Ivy league schools and continues to improve the interface. The success is both exciting and terrifying. Eduardo wants to be cautious and look for ways to monetize the site. Mark wants to grow and add more features.

It was only by chance then, that such a crucial juncture in the website’s existence fell upon the end of the school year. Eduardo had to go back to New York for an internship. Mark flew to Norcal to rub elbows with Silicon Valley. Little did either of them know that Mark was about to meet someone who would completely change the game.

Maybe you remember the name “Sean Parker”, maybe you don’t. Parker is the late-nineties time capsule that blew the music industry wide open, exposing their ridiculous CD markups when he co-founded Napster. When Parker falls into Sorkin’s mini-opus, it was like finding some old 8mm film with Jimi Hendrix and Elvis hanging out. You had no idea these guys knew each other! Parker, who at this point had lost every single penny to the record companies, was so poor he was couch-surfing between friends’ apartments. When he sees his ladyfriend playing on this new weird site, “theFacebook,” it’s as if his world’s been turned upside-down. He calls Mark and Eduardo asking for a meeting right away. A week later they meet at some swanky New York restaurant. Parker arrives a good half an hour late, and even without a penny to his name, rides in with the confidence of ten Michael Bay’s. He explains to them that he doesn’t want to crash their party or pitch them anything. He just wants to let them know how awesome they are. With that remark, he’s got places to be, so he’s up and gone as fast as he came, but not before casually dropping a suggestion: “Drop the “the” and just call it “Facebook.” “It’s cleaner,” Once gone, Eduardo turns to Mark. “What a douchebag,” Eduardo’s eyes say. But Mark’s googly giddy expression tells a different story. He’s a 13 year girl at her first Jonas Brothers concert. A mancrush is born.

Sean Parker

Needless to say, Parker *did* want to crash the party. He just wanted to make sure Mark’s parents weren’t around (Eduardo) when he showed up with the keg. With Eduardo back in NY, Parker made his pitch: “What are you doing with that guy?” he demanded. “He’s holding you back.” The more Parker points out how little Eduardo is doing, the more things Mark gives Parker to do. And to Parker’s credit, he gets things done. Working for free, he takes Facebook international within three weeks. Mark eventually hires Sean without telling Eduardo, giving him a 5% stake in the company. When Eduardo finds out about the tomfoolery, he makes a bold statement and freezes the company bank account, potentially putting Facebook in major jeopardy. It’s the last straw. Mark and Parker trick Eduardo into signing a contract that screws him out of hundreds of millions of dollars, effectively firing him. In the process, a friendship is destroyed.

The script ends with a chilling and heartbreaking scene. It’s 3 years later, with Mark being sued by Eduardo, Tyler and Cameron, for the full 16 billion dollars the company is worth. We’ve been cutting back and forth to this deposition over the course of the screenplay, and now the long day has ended. Mark sits alone in a dark room, in front of his computer, all the money in the world and not one true friend to show for it. Looking back to the last time he was happy – his relationship with Erica – he pulls up Facebook, the site he invented, slides the mouse up to “add friend” and sends her a friend request. Afterwards, despite the millions of daily operations requiring his attention at that moment, he waits for her to accept. He’ll wait forever if he has to.

Cameron and Tyler

The script is sprinkled with a lot more humor than I expected – to the point where I wondered if it should be classified as a comedy. What’s wonderful is that all of it works. Those unoriginal moments you’ve seen in every comedy spec written in the past year (including my own), where couples are arguing over Facebook-related issues (Girlfriend: “Why does your relationship status say you’re single??”) Well Sorkin uses them too. The only difference is that it’s happening to the inventors of Facebook. And so the unoriginal becomes original, the stuid becomes hilarious. — And don’t get me started on Sean Parker – a character that can become iconic if the film is made. The brash techy rock star revels in his own ego, and is a key player in why Facebook is on our computers today (Parker ended up selling his portion of the company for – I believe – a couple hundred million dollars).

Part of my love for this 162 page script is that Sorkin doesn’t use any discernible structure. I was constantly looking for a base, an obvious story or goal. And there isn’t any. 99% of the time when this happens, the script’s a disaster (don’t try it. just, don’t) But Sorkin uses some crazy unknown voodoo screenwriting tricks to keep us riveted. In the end, our curiosity is what drives the story as we’re wondering if Sean – who’s already sacrificed his personal life – will end up getting sacrificed out of a business as well. Did he indeed steal this idea from Cameron and Tyler? Or are these two spoiled brats lashing out because they can’t handle the one time things didn’t go their way?

The Social Network is a either a modern tragedy or a modern success story depending on how you look at it. Imagine going from nothing to a billionaire in less than a year. How do you even grasp that kind of success? How do you live a normal life? How do you address the constant lawsuits that eat into your everyday existence? And how do you do this at 22 years old? When I was 22, just scraping together enough money to buy a case of Busch Light Draft was a victory. Either way it’s fun to put yourself in Mark’s shoes and picture how you’d handle the situation.

I’m sure my attempts to grow Scriptshadow made this read a little more personal. And remembering that lonely brother at the party stirred up some emotions as well. Either way, this script really resonated with me. Which is why it makes it into my Top 10.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Be inventive in how you reveal character. I loved Sean Parker in this script. Sorkin gives Parker this quirky little obsession with an old business associate who fucked him over during his Napster days. Parker has a stalker-like obsession with getting back at him and brings up his revenge plans at every opportunity. Not only is it hilarious, but it reveals Parker’s character. It takes a certain kind of person who can’t let go – who will stop at nothing to even the score. Basically: an insecure asshole. Normally, a writer will reveal an asshole by having him yell at someone else. How interesting is that? Take a cue from Sorkin and build a little obsession (or other quirk/habit) into your character – something that tells us exactly who they are.